The Inspiring Story of the Stubborn West Virginia Glassmaker Who Lost His Job at Fostoria and Kept On Making Glass

29063821_10156210217661664_8064101944263585581_o

One of the characters in our movie Moundsville (which you can watch here) is glassmaker Fred Wilkerson, Jr. (pictured above, on the right) who talks about his deep roots in the area and the closure of Fostoria, once one of the town’s main employers. The amazing backstory of how his small glass manufacturing firm got started didn’t make it into the final version of the movie, so I want to tell it here. It’s one of my favorite stories I’ve ever encountered as a reporter, all about pride, work ethic, self-reliance, stubbornness and American ingenuity.

28828152_10156210217666664_3330205037666719879_o

Fred’s dad, Fred, Sr. (left), worked for Fostoria Glass for 30 years. After it closed, and he lost his job, in the 1980s — because of imports, consolidation and people eating more off plastic and paper plates — he opened his own artisanal glass shop, in a barn of his house off a winding West Virginia country road outside of Moundsville. It focuses on making paperweight, and sells to customers in the US and around the world; it’s also done contract work for Owens Corning and Danbury Mint, and even the White House.

28828421_10156210217656664_3096158667701704591_o

Making glass was Fred, Sr.’s vocation and he wanted to keep doing it, even if the factory closed and there was no longer a stable and lucrative corporate structure around him. After a tour in the Air Force, Fred, Jr. joined him. They take commissions, attend craft fairs and sell online. “It’s often seven days a week of hard work,” says Fred Jr. “But we think of ourselves as artists.”

You can learn more about the Wilkersons and buy their glass here.

John W. Miller

2 Replies to “The Inspiring Story of the Stubborn West Virginia Glassmaker Who Lost His Job at Fostoria and Kept On Making Glass”

  1. Where are you located in Moundsville, I would love to visit it & possibly buy some stuff there as well. Thank you for sharing this article.
    Theresa Young

    Like

  2. With all the cheap imports, I think many do not appreciate the craftsmanship of hand made/blown glass. My uncle worked until retirement at Fostoria. I believe his mixed colors? His name was Stanley Smigle.
    I am President if the Brooke County Historical Museum. We have one room solely for glass made in Brooke County.
    We had 23 glass houses at one period. I appreciate your carrying on the craft and hope to visit. I applaud you.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s